WTB CZR Wheels: At The Finish

WTB CZR Wheels: At The Finish – by Guitar Ted

WTB’s newest complete wheel set offering, the CZR i23, is for the gravel/back road rider. The CZR wheels have been thoroughly put to the test here at Riding Gravel. After many hundreds of miles of riding and with over three months of dusty gravel road exposure I am ready to give you my final take on the CZR carbon fiber rimmed pair of hoops.

Image of a bicycle on a gravel road at Sunrise in a rural setting
Guitar Ted got an early start on his century ride test of the CZR wheels from WTB.

In my last update on this review, which you can go back and see here, I mentioned that the CZR wheels were going back to the Noble Bikes GX-5 carbon fiber bike we use for testing here at Riding Gravel. This bike has a much more rigid frame and with no suspended seat post or stem on this bike, I was hoping to verify the claims WTB set forth for the CZR wheel set in terms of rider comfort.

What better way to do just that than to set off on another all-day, 100+ mile venture on gravel roads? This local route I devised ended up happening on a day when county maintenance crews had just been out laying down some fresh gravel in anticipation of heavy traffic related to the upcoming harvest. Perfect for testing claims of comfort- bad for the rider who was hoping for a bit easier roads to ride!

Guitar Ted's Noble Bikes GX-5 after his century ride with the WTB CZR wheel set
The WTB CZR wheels bring a lot more benefits to the rider than just light weight.

After a long day in the saddle which featured temperatures ranging from the low 40’s all the way through to above 90°F in the afternoon, and with many miles of fresh, dusty gravel, I can say something about this claim of comfort WTB makes for the CZR. But first, I think it would be good to remind ourselves of just what that claim was. This from my introduction to the wheel set in this review series. :

WTB claims that the new CZR wheels feature optimized rim wall thicknesses to achieve a more vertically compliant ride quality while not sacrificing strength where it is needed.

After that century, and after several rides after that, I can say without a doubt that the findings are inconclusive. Honestly, with big 45mm Riddler tires set at a comfortable 30-ish something air pressure, I would be hard pressed to make any claim on what this wheel is doing in a ‘vertical compliance’ sort of way. If it is doing something, then it is imperceptible to me. That isn’t to say that it is a baseless claim, but that I don’t have the means to measure that, if it exists, and I certainly couldn’t feel anything of remark after riding hundreds of miles on these wheels.

What I will say, and this is something I am thoroughly impressed by, because you can feel this, is that the WTB CZR wheels make riding through chunky, loose gravel an easier task due to the wheels lateral rigidity which allows for more precise handling with less effort. Forget about ‘light weight’ for a moment. The mere fact that I was able to ride through miles of loose, marbles of gravel with less effort was a much welcomed characteristic of this wheel set. Now add in that these wheels are indeed light and you have the makings of something remarkable and worth while of owning.

A close up detail shot of the WTB CZR rear hub when the wheels were new.
WTB claims that they put a lot of effort into the design for the CZR hub set.

More gravy? Yes, please! Okay, how about these hubs? WTB says that they put a lot of effort into the hub design and I think that it shows up in smooth, free coasting, and with great engagement of the pawl system. With what I put these wheels through in terms of dust, that should have affected these bearings negatively, but I discern no loss of smoothness. How about the tubeless performance? It is typically great for WTB, and I would expect no less from their products after using their TCS system for over a decade. How about no spoke noises, a true running rim set, and good, understated looks? Yes, you get all of this as well.

At The Finish: As you may have figured out by now, I have really liked these wheels from WTB. Now comes the point of value. Does all of this add up to being worth at least what WTB asks for these wheels? That’s where we have to start here with the final verdict.

These wheels go for a MSRP of $1599.90 for the set. When we are talking carbon wheel sets, where does this fall in the marketplace? Well, after a quick search of about half a dozen well known carbon wheel sets with similar specs, these wheels fall in about the middle of the pack in terms of weight, price, and features. This is a highly competitive market. Many of the wheels out there have some attractive features at this price which you might want. In my opinion, WTB CZR wheels have just about everything I would want in terms of features.

I think one place where some folks would point and say that the CZR is missing the boat is in the internal rim width area. The CZR sits at 23mm where some in this market are at the wider 25mm internal width. Well, you can look at this a couple of ways. Let’s say that you want a gravel wheel that you could also use as your road wheel set when needed. I would say that your 25mm-30mm road tires are going to sit better on a 23mm internal width rim than they would on a 25mm internal width example. So, it kind of depends upon who is using the wheel and what their expectations are there. And in the end, who is to say that 25mm internal width is ‘right’ and 23mm is ‘not enough’? You could argue that point all day long.

But beyond that admittedly narrow, minor quibble, the CZR wheels on their own are what I would term as a ‘good value‘. You are getting what you pay for, and this wheel set should stack up well against anything else out there in its price and weight range. Now add in the fact that this wheel set is part of a complete, in house tubeless system, which has a track record of being really reliable. A system with its own tape and now a sealant. A system that has a wide range of tires for just about any need which are available to use on it. Well, that kind of raises the bar, in my opinion. Not many companies can compete at that level.

I give the CZR wheels a ‘highly recommended’ score here. While certain singular features on competitor’s products may seem more appealing, the CZR wheels have a complete feature set, are a part of a systemic tubeless range, which not many other choices in wheels can lay claim to, and a wheel set which performs at a very high level in very demanding conditions. When a wheel upgrade is in your future, these WTB CZR wheels should be high on your list of candidates for that purchase.

For more information on these wheels and other WTB products see their website here: https://www.wtb.com/

Note: WTB sent over the CZR wheel set to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed, for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

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Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004, he has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and backroad events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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3 thoughts on “WTB CZR Wheels: At The Finish

  1. I started a thread in the forums about this new generation of rims that claim to be vertically compliant. No manufacturer have any data to back up this claim. Whole Lotta meh.

  2. @Volsung – I think WTB’s claim ‘could’ be true, but at such a minimal level as to be unnoticeable. I will say that I think this is because the amount of rim side wall that ‘could’ flex is so short, it makes little to no difference.

    Contrast that to the FLO Cycling wheels which we tested last year. With those wheels I could feel that they were smoother than a typical wheel set, but considering the part of the rim side walls that could flex were probably three times the height (or length- however you want to term that), of WTB’s CZR wheels, that would make sense.

    So, when I see a claimed flexing bit that is short and small as with the CZR, I would be surprised to find that it would be noticeable compared, as I stated, to a nice, cushy tire. (Or seat post, or frame for that matter) But when the design has significant area for said flex, and the design is made for that, I believe it can be done in a wheel. And as I said, the FLO Cycling wheels demonstrated that for me.

    There are other things a design can accomplish with spokes in different materials to affect a ride in a similar way, but that’s another subject for another day.

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